Creamy Chicken Enchiladas
Julie Goelz's sense of adventure applies to her taste buds as well. She's not afraid to try new dishes and recreate them at home.
Rick West | Staff Photographer
Julie Goelz creates Creamy Chicken Enchiladas
Love affair with lasagna takes tourist into kitchen
How romantic is this?
Julie Goelz and her husband, Rich, were out exploring Rome one day during the summer of 2006 when they spotted a cozy little restaurant with seating out back in the alley.
"We were hungry, and everyone looked happy there," so they sat down to eat and have a glass of wine.
In broken English the waiter recommended the lasagna, setting the stage for a love affair. With the lasagna, of course.
"It was the best thing I ever tasted," says Julie.
Simple and light, it consisted only of very thin, homemade lasagna noodles, a delicate, fresh tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. That's it. No ricotta, no ground beef, no grated Parmesan.
"We each took a bite and just moaned," says Julie. "It was nothing like what we have here."
Hearing the Americans groaning, the owner stopped by their table to see if everything was all right. One thing led to another, and she invited Julie into the kitchen.
"I asked a lot of questions and she told me how to make the lasagna," says Julie.
Back at the hotel Julie wrote down everything she could remember, and when she returned home to Algonquin, she began recreating that memorable dish.
"I've got it pretty much down to a tee," says Julie.
Experimentation is typical for Julie, a lesson from her mother, who was so daring that she ate beef tongue and brains, provided by her father, a butcher.
"Her sense of adventure paved the way for my sisters and I," says Julie. "There's probably nothing we wouldn't try at least once."
Growing up in Oak Lawn, Julie and her two sisters learned to cook alongside their single mother.
"That's how we had fun, and we're still that way today," she says. "Cooking and being with family was very important; my mom handed that down to us, and now I'm teaching my (two) children."
From the Polish side of the family Julie learned to make pierogies. When her mother dated a Hispanic man he brought south-of-the-border flavors into their kitchen.
Later, Julie learned to make sushi and noodle dishes from the grandmother of a Japanese college friend and from a Japanese neighbor.
"She brings ingredients back from Japan for me," says Julie.
This week Julie offers us tastes of Mexico and Italy with Chicken Cream Enchiladas, White Chicken Chili, vodka-based Limoncello and that unforgettable lasagna dish. Julie serves it with grilled zucchini, just like the little Italian trattoria.
The woman who runs that restaurant offered Julie a job that day in Rome, but she declined. Lucky us. Now we've got the recipe.